So you are feeling motivated to start working out, eating healthy, meditating or any number of lifestyle changes you’ve been telling yourself that you want to do. The problem is you have tried before without much success. Ditching bad habits and adopting good ones is a challenge. It’s important to realize that making a lifestyle change takes time, and the most difficult part is committing and following through. I encourage you to take the time and complete these 6 steps to set yourself up for success.
Change One Behavior At A Time – We develop unhealthy habits over the course of time, so we can’t expect to replace unhealthy behaviors with healthy habits all at once. It requires time. Many people try to change everything all at once, eventually leading them to run out of steam and completely self-sabotage within a few weeks. Instead focus on one goal or change at a time. As that new healthy behavior becomes a habit, add on another goal that is supportive of the overall change you are striving for.
Find Motivation – The key to goal planning is to figure out your why? Why do you want to achieve this goal? Why is it important to you? This actually requires some soul-searching and going deep within. Don’t just accept the first answer that comes to mind. I encourage my personal training clients to go 5 - 7 layers deep. Meaning, ask yourself "why" 5 - 7 different times, to get to the core of why you want to make this change or reach this goal. When you strike that answer, you may find yourself in tears, having the goose bumps or hair sticking up on your arms. It can be an emotional exercise, but it’s so important to complete. It will be the thing that keeps you going when you want to quit.
Example Goal: To start exercising.
1. Why do you want to start exercising? To lose weight.
2. Why do you want to lose weight? To feel healthier and have more energy.
3. Why do you want to feel healthier and have more energy? To be active in my kids' lives.
4. Why do you want to be active in your kids' lives? To have fun, make memories, and to be a guide in their life by role-modeling the behavior.
5. Why do you want to have fun, make memories, and to be a guide in their life by role-modeling the behavior? We are only given one life and we need to make the very best of it. I believe our creator only knows our full potential and we would be doing a disservice if we didn't strive for it every single day. Even when it's hard and I am faced with adversity, I must persevere. I know it will not be easy and it will take hard work and sacrifices, but it will be so worth it. I so badly want that for my kids and I can't expect them to fight for their best life if I don't fight for mine. (Personal note: This answer brings tears to my eyes and touches my heart.)
Note: It's important to ask yourself why 5 - 7 times! Get down to the core of why you want, what it is that you want. Then post it everywhere, so you don't forget it!
Make A Plan - Now that you know what you want and why you want it, it’s time to make a plan of how to get there. Creating a map will help guide you along your journey of change. It will also act as a reference point for when you get derailed from the plan.
Here are the four steps I complete when goal planning:
First, start with the end in mind. What is the end goal you want to achieve?
Second, where are you currently at? What resources do you have available to you that can help you achieve your goal? What are things that could get in your way? Take some time to reflect and be honest with yourself.
Third, what are all the things that need to be done in order to reach your goal? From this list choose three major tasks, which you know if you complete you will reach your goal. These will act as your guideposts.
Fourth, what are the small steps, also known as milestones, that you need complete to accomplish each major guidepost?
It’s important that these small steps are attainable, otherwise you may not stick to your goal. For example: If you would like to wake up earlier, first start by waking up 15 minutes earlier for 1 – 2 weeks, then increase it another 15 minutes. If you try to wake up an hour earlier right off the bat, you will most likely feel exhausted after the first couple of days and give up.
Make sure your plan is realistic, and you are confident you can achieve your goal with dedication and hard work.
Track Your Progress & Reward Your Accomplishments - I think it is vital to have your goals in front of you, so that you can see them EVERY. SINGLE. DAY. I have mine hanging up on a poster board in my bedroom, so it’s the first thing I see every morning when I wake up. It’s a simple reminder of what I need to work on that day. As far as tracking goes, I personally like to have a calendar next to my goals, so I can mark down every day that I wrote in my journal or worked out. At the end of the month I can assess my results. Maybe I found that I didn’t journal on the weekends, so how can I make some changes that insure I complete my journal entries on the weekends.
It’s also important to celebrate your accomplishments. Take time to recognize how far you have come. It’s not all about the end results, but the journey along the way. It will feel way more satisfying when you reach that end goal if you can reflect on the journey and all the ups and downs it took to get there.
Find An Accountability Partner – This could be a friend, family member, co-worker or someone else on your journey who will help keep you motivated and accountable. If you are wanting to lose weight, find someone to workout with. It will be a lot harder to skip the gym if someone is planning to meet you there. Or consider joining a support group or hiring a trainer/coach. It’s important that you have someone to discuss your struggles and share your successes with. It’s a lot less lonely when you have someone to embark on the journey with.
Learn From Your Setbacks – News flash! You are not always going to be perfect. Just because you eat a brownie or skip the gym for a week doesn’t mean you throw in the flag and give up on your goals. So many people have the all or nothing approach and it really shouldn’t be that way. Give yourself some grace and forgiveness. It’s important to learn from each lapse and figure out what you can do differently, so that you can set yourself up for success next time.